- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 31, 2016

For former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Monday’s Iowa caucuses could be the beginning of the end for a long-shot presidential bid that’s failed to gain any real traction with Democratic voters.

Political analysts say Mr. O’Malley — hovering between 3 and 4 percent in Iowa polls, miles behind fellow candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders — needs a surprisingly strong showing in the caucuses to sustain his campaign.

But with little sign he’ll outperform low expectations in Iowa, Mr. O’Malley’s White House ambitions could come to a screeching halt as the Democratic race increasingly looks to be a two-person contest.

“It’s unclear what his rationale is for running,” said Matthew Dallek, an assistant professor of political management at George Washington University. “He’s been on [the debate] stage multiple times, He’s gotten good airtime, but he just hasn’t moved.”

The only true hope for Mr. O’Malley, Mr. Dallek added, is that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign “implodes” amid continued questions around her use of a private email account while secretary of state and the fact that dozens of classified messages passed through that account — something Mrs. Clinton had previously denied.

Short of that, Mr. O’Malley seems destined to remain in the shadow of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders.

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Mr. O’Malley — who has been unable to keep pace financially with either of his rivals, and is relatively non-existent on the airwaves heading into the Iowa caucuses — argues his campaign could break through once voting actually begins.

“Iowa has found a way to sort through the noise and sort through the national polls and to lift up a new leader for our country at times when that was critical and essential,” he said at a CNN town hall last week when asked to justify his seemingly doomed candidacy.

The most recent Real Clear Politics average of all presidential polls — which includes surveys from Jan. 18 through Jan. 29 — puts Mr. O’Malley at 4.4 percent in Iowa. Mrs. Clinton has the support of 47 percent of Democrats, while Mr. Sanders stands at 44 percent, polls show.

He’s doing even worse in New Hampshire and in national polls, coming in at under 3 percent in both sets of surveys, according to Real Clear Politics averages.

Since jumping into the race, Mr. O’Malley has tried to position himself as the progressive alternative to Mrs. Clinton, highlighting his accomplishments when governor of Maryland.

Those accomplishments include successfully pushing for marriage equality in Maryland, implementing a state version of the DREAM Act and pushing for other liberal priorities. He’s also stressed that on issues of high importance to liberals, such as climate change, his positions are more aggressive than those of Mrs. Clinton.

But the left wing of the Democratic Party hasn’t responded to Mr. O’Malley and instead has flocked to Mr. Sanders.

Progressive leaders say they have nothing against Mr. O’Malley but believe Mr. Sanders is a more effective messenger for the left.

“I think he’s running a really solid, good presidential campaign. But the bottom line is he isn’t the insurgent candidate that Bernie Sanders,” Charles Chamberlain, director of the liberal PAC Democracy for America, said of Mr. O’Malley after the group announced in December it would support Mr. Sanders in the Democratic primary.

The O’Malley campaign did not respond to requests for comment about its post-Iowa plans.

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